There’s a silver lining to the traffic-clogging $1.1 million Pedestrian Safety Improvement project happening along State Road A1A. It might end sooner than expected.
Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Community Outreach Specialist, Mariam Ali said the contract currently calls for the work to wrap up in late February 2020, but it could happen as early as the end of this month, depending on various factors, such as weather.
Now in phase two, Ali said the work between Eau Gallie Boulevard and 5th Avenue in Indialantic includes installing drainage pipe, adding new sidewalks to the median separators, and reworking drainage ditches for the 11 new mid-block crossings.
“Once complete with this phase, about 90 percent of the project will be done,” Ali said. “After phase two, there will be paving and then adding in pavement markings, crosswalk signage and rapid flashing crossing beacons, which will be the last items to be installed before the public may utilize the crosswalk access.”
It’s been a long road – literally – for local residents and business owners who have navigated the lane closures and numerous orange and white safety cones placed along the much-traveled route.
Earlier this month, when news of a bicyclist being pinned under a car just outside Dunkin Donuts on A1A in unincorporated Indialantic spread, residents took to the social media site NextDoor, with many wanting to know if they accident was related to roadwork.
In fact, Indialantic Town Manager Mike Casey said he’s had no reports from the police department of an uptick in accidents due to the roadwork.
But that didn’t stop a conversation from starting about whether bicyclists should be riding along A1A while the work is being done.
According to Ali, unless posted, there are no restrictions against bicyclists on A1A during the work. “A bicycle is a vehicle and should traverse the roadway carefully as any vehicle using the roadway under construction,” Ali said.
A main irritation expressed by many is the appearance of barrels and cones in areas with no visible work in progress.
According to the FDOT website, placing and removing these devices in a construction zone is “time consuming and could significantly increase the cost of construction projects.” In addition, they claim the devices are “left in place during non-work hours to prevent injury to motorists who might attempt to drive in travel lanes not yet suitable for use.”
“We leave work zones in place for safety and efficiency,” Ali said. “Crews may rotate working from area to area in the limits of the project.”
Indialantic Town Councilman Simon Kemp is also a member of the South Beaches Coalition, a group represented by several beachside towns, that meets to go over and provide input on what the Space Coast Transit Planning Organization (SCTPO) is doing.
“I understand people are frustrated but this project is moving along quickly and I think trying to put barrels in different places every day where the work is happening would be more confusing than the current situation,” Kemp said.
But the minor irritations and aggravations of some may be more serious for Lisa Eshelman, who, as owner of Beachside Produce in the Indialantic Shopping Center on A1A, feels a financial impact as well.
“We have been affected; most of our regulars are making it in regardless of the mess but it’s very frustrating watching our elderly customers trying to navigate the construction on A1A and then the mess in our parking lot,” Eshelman said. “The south entrance to our plaza has been closed for months for the Publix build. We’re doing the best we can to keep serving our community and hoping that they’ll continue to brave the construction and support us.”
The FDOT does not provide monetary compensation for loss of business to retailers in construction zones, but say they try their best to minimize the impact.
“At the last Coalition meeting I expressed concerns for the businesses along the area of construction because I had heard from several that sales have dropped significantly. Along with that I believed when the barrels had been placed originally it was very haphazardly and it was not clear where to turn to enter shopping centers and streets,” Kemp said.
“Shortly after the meeting FDOT took a second look and created more defined entrances and broke the construction up into sections. I think this helped motorists and hopefully helped the businesses. I’m still hearing some complaints from businesses located in the shopping plaza just north of 5th Avenue, but I think the Publix construction is also a factor in that location.”
Not everyone is upset about the work. Jeff McDermott of Oceanside Village believes it encourages drivers to be more alert. “The improvements, in theory, will force drivers to slow down and will increase the visibility of pedestrians trying to safely cross the street,” McDermott said. “I do not mind the inconvenience of construction either; it’s a part of life and you have to be flexible.”
The work is all part of an improvement project aimed at keeping pedestrians safer by installing raised, concrete, mid-block crossing points at 11 locations – and improving one that already exists – along State Road A1A between 5th Avenue in Indialantic and Eau Gallie Boulevard. When complete, each crossing point will have flashing beacons, pavement markings and lighting. The project also calls for some new sidewalks, asphalt replacement, transit stop improvements and minor drainage work.